In the mainstream media, there have been stories regarding Stan Lee's plans for supposedly the world's first gay superhero. Comic book fans know better...
No sooner have I written about the mainstream media’s increasingly respectful coverage of comicbooks and super-heroes, when my country’s own Daily Telegraph manages to print this hilarious piece of claptrap claiming that Stan Lee is creating the world’s “first” gay super-hero.
Stories like this being run in national newspapers really don’t do any justice to the massive amount of comics fans and creators who are actively discussing and correcting the medium’s long-standing bias towards heteronormality and outdated gender roles. The fact that the Telegraph feels able to print this quite staggeringly incorrect headline is a stark reminder to fans that there’s still plenty of work left to do before comicbooks can be seen by the general public as a grown-up medium that adequately reflects the diversity of human experience .
I’m sure I don’t need to enlighten any fellow geeks on the supreme wrongness of the assertions printed in the Telegraph, but, since I’ve got a column to fill, it’s time for a quick look at a hastily-compiled superhero comics LGBT fact sheet:
* Northstar, perhaps Marvel’s most widely-known gay superhero (somewhat damningly, since homosexuality ultimately became his defining trait) was created in 1979. While hints about his sexuality were dropped from time to time as early as 1983, it was not openly stated on the page until 1992’s Alpha Flight #106.
* Chris Claremont wrote X-Men villainesses Mystique and Destiny as lesbian partners from their inception, though it was not stated on-panel until 1990, when the archaic term “leman” (meaning lover) was used instead of a more direct phrasing.
* Additionally, a planned X-Men storyline would’ve implied that Mystique used her shape-shifting powers to become male and impregnate Destiny to 'father' Nightcrawler, though this was later dropped.
* Apollo and Midnighter, two male characters in Wildstorm’s series The Authority are openly in a relationship with one another. Since the two characters are considered to be analogues for Superman and Batman respectively, this left DC in the unusual position of publishing gay versions of their own most recognisable characters when they acquired Wildstorm.
* All of Marvel’s recently-created “young superhero” teams have homosexual members – Wiccan and Hulking in Young Avengers, Anole in New X-Men and Karolina in Runaways.
* Furthermore, the character Xavin in Runaways is a shape-shifting alien, initially introduced as male but takes on a female form to become romantically linked with Karolina, making her/him a notable example of a transgendered superhero.
Frankly, I could go on. The thing is, while it’s fair to say that few, if any of these superheroes are well-known to the public, it is not fair to fans of superheroes to say that such characters don’t exist. The implication clearly being that comics are still a children’s medium rooted in the 1940s conservative values under which they were initially conceived.
The Telegraph article quotes a “Television Industry Source” saying, “There’s a real buzz among comic book fans.”
As a comicbook fan, let me assure you all: There most certainly is not any buzz about the idea of a gay superhero. Why would there be? We’ve already got a fair few to choose from, and some of them actually have other traits worth mentioning besides their sexuality.
It’s certainly no bad thing that Stan Lee’s lending his substantial name to the diversity revolution superheroes are slowly going through, but if this is the level of reportage that fans can expect, then maybe the day when the genre is taken seriously is still a little bit further off than we hoped.
Definitely not the first, but still awesome. I loved the book.